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How to deal with Ageism at work

Bob Hope once said “You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”

A healthy working environment is one that practices diversity in every sense of the word: race, gender, ability and age. But reality is often far removed from the ideal. Often, younger employees view their older colleagues as less capable, or less motivated. They fail to acknowledge the skills, experience, and competencies the older folk have acquired. Just because you’re not on Instagram or SnapChat doesn’t make you inferior! Here are a few ways you can help create a healthier, more diverse work environment.

Encourage mixed-age teamwork

If you’re in a position to influence your employer (or if you are an employer) try putting youth and experience together in your project teams. Whether it’s in a training or assignment situation, encouraging teamwork across the age divide will provide a refreshing learning experience for everyone. The young provide the energy and enthusiasm, the older provide the experience and guidance.

Encourage empathy

Yes, this has become a buzzword in recent times, but for a good reason. Empathy is the ability, and the willingness, to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. Try putting yourself in their shoes. This works both ways. If you are young, be sensitive to your older colleagues. Talk to them. You’ll soon get to appreciate what they have to offer, and learn from it. If you are older, understand the world young people have grown up in. Learn to harness their enthusiasm. Be patient and tolerant.

Encourage open discussions

In any working environment, and especially where there is tension between young and older employees, it is important to let any grievances be shared and discussed in a positive and constructive manner. A business needs to find the right balance between experience and youthful enthusiasm. Tension based on age discrimination will develop into wasted time and energy. Speak freely. Listen to each other. Develop mutual respect and caring relationships with those around you. It will profit everyone and make for a more enjoyable and productive working environment.

Be open-minded

In any working environment, the opinions of others are important. Older people tend to be more rigid in their beliefs and values. Younger people can often forget to listen. We all need to be flexible and listen to what others have to say. Someone else’s opinion can help you to re-evaluate your own beliefs, which can, in turn, bring new ideas and create positive change in the workplace.

Learn new things

Older people are sometimes afraid to adapt to new ways and learn new thinks. Like technology. Every day, the world around us is being influenced by technology in some way. Especially in the way we work and the way business is conducted. If you show an eagerness to adapt and adopt a new skill, younger people will relate to you and show respect. Ask them for advice too; they like to demonstrate how much they know! A positive attitude to new technology will make you a more valuable asset at work.

Be sociable

For people to work better together, they have to find things they have in common. Sometimes, a little humour or a friendly chat can bring people of different ages together more quickly. And it doesn’t always have to happen at work. Encourage your staff or your colleagues to socialize together from time to time. Go for a coffee together.

Relax and get to know each other. Life’s to short to be a workaholic.

Graphic used with kind permission from Skillroad



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